TRACK | Andrew Jackson Jihad – Temple Grandin

5/5 golden merles

“Temple Grandin” is one of the finest lo-fi pop openers of the common era. The track combines a chorus-refrain of “find a nicer way to kill it” with a vibrant series of industrial-grade hooks.

Throughout the verses, individuals whose origins set them apart from the civilizations in which they find themselves (Stevie Wonder, Temple Grandin, Helen Keller) are celebrated for their efforts to overcome this apparent gulf.

Beyond that, each individual’s outsider perspective provided them with a greater appreciation for the hypocritical cultural and structural faults present within the larger in-group. And each acted heroically, with decency and moral courage in the face of possible further ostracization, in an effort to improve the conditions they observed.

There is no singular map, each persons route is different, but there are others who have demonstrably trekked great distances, decently, without forfeiting their humanity.

in the days before the damage
human beings were the ones
that did the chasing


5/5 golden merles

After hearing some of my own particularly subdued songs a friend of mine once told me that music “was allowed” to have melodrama.

And while that is true and a good, generally speaking I still feel that subtlety is underrated. Or that its intentional utilization opens up avenues for other elements to be exposed or focused upon.

The understated can enhance the periphery, operating as its own aesthetic that presents but does not undercut or distract from a greater text or subtext. In this way the work is allowed to fold back on itself, and, in that muted intentional consistency, acts in elevating the emotional impact further.

The works of Yorgos Lanthimos in film work in this way. All characters assume a subdued, detached delivery and the resonance elaborates from small fluctuations within this new scale of framing. Small vibrations in feeling and action take on monumental significance. The contrast unveils and heightens that which would otherwise be at least partially obscured or overshadowed.

Subtraction is sometimes addition where perception is concerned. FLOWERTOWN’s “RCP” is working in a similar way. The idiosyncratic phrasing, creeping and cooing, in either variant of the spectral dual vocals, favors the subterranean, glacial structure of the track. The focus is shifted in an illuminating manner. It’s done with great craft all throughout the Theresa Street EP.

TRACK | Jacob Beck – Norwegia

5/5 golden merles

Jacob Beck’s “Norwegia” includes a rich and immense pallet of lo-fi tones. The grit of these tones is derived from but are not limited to: sand, ash, swarf and sediment. Lacking proper facilities, I don’t know what else it’s cut with. But the landscape painted by this constitution feels truly immense, originating only from a modest handful of well-textured elements.

Sun and surf drenched vocals couple with rattling instrumentation, alchemically sprouting complimentary crystalline percussive structures. It is a neatly crafted and coarse set of molecules.

Everything wraps and warps in the subsequent reverberations, disintegrating almost as quickly as it was formed. Gliding and careening, all coherent pop forms are quickly and agreeably broken into smithereens, the detritus of which produce a fine metallic mist. After a brisk 2 minutes and 46 seconds, should everything go to plan, the form evaporates before your very eyes.

With lead guitar-strings like filament for refracted light, load up the track with your woes rattling around your head and shortly thereafter you’ll have them promptly sorted; less by way of a wash and more a sort of grind and polish. Well forged, “Norwegia” is a real fine track that brings Beck’s First Collection to a close.

TRACK | The Strungs – Nothing is Possible

5/5 golden merles

The Strung’s “Nothing is Possible” is 85 seconds worth of a burning and cavernous sort of lo-fi pop rock. The molten emission of the primary vocal hook progress alongside a frenetic contrast of complimentary and clashing guitar tones, a late lead solo slung over the terminus, incised and gashing.

Abruptly the spell is cast and spent. Most songwriters would likely stretch and repeat a melody of this caliber well beyond its breaking point, plodding into the reaches of multiple unseemly minutes. But here, instead, the work is honed properly into a well tempered unit worthy of some small worship.

“Nothing is Possible” was forged in 2014. But more recently Totally Understandable was released, if you would like a fresher set of tracks extracted from the alluvium, processed, and worthy of praise.

TRACK | Gen Pop – Bell Book Candle

5/5 golden merles

Olympia-based Gen Pop’s “Bell Book Candle” is some good guts on display, smearing and smashing guitars decay alongside some thundering and twisted vocals. The production is a fair simulation of the unadorned and apparently undeniable.

I have no idea if the title/chorus is based on the Richard Quine directed film from 1958 or Pope Zachary’s 8th Century decree of excommunication for “exceptionally grievous sin.”

But my name is the same as that Pope. And I did once cohabitate with a Siamese cat. And I did recently watch Jimmy Stewart in Harvey. These combined attributes make me more qualified than most to tell you with some authority that the track is good regardless.

TRACK | Grayson Hamm – Wasted Days

5/5 golden merles

Some nights I dream too loud.

“Wasted Days” is a particularly dreamy track concerning how one goes about parsing and processing time which is considered carelessly or poorly spent.

The production summons a form of much delicate weaving and luster. Concurrent piano and guitar drawl in subdued elaboration, insulating the reverie. Intricately overlaid, wending the way forward, each instrument aligns sequentially and percussively without tangling.

The central thesis of the song concerns the totality of experience: taking the good with the bad and recognizing them as two pieces of a greater, inextricable whole. That all happenings accumulate, the exact origins of influence are not known, and our choice of actions after the cumulative events can always contort fate to good.

It’s a lovely track full of treble and tremble, bearing much quiet resolve and confirmation of agency.

TRACK | battle ave. – i saw the egg

5/5 golden merles

It’s with some conviction I say that battle ave.’s “I SAW THE EGG” is a great relief. It is a rarity within the indie/lo-fi rock genre to produce works of properly grandiose anthemic builds. And to achieve this within a 2 minute framework is even more impressive.

The underlying characteristics feel rightly justified in their ascent: beyond the layered textures there exists a vibrant language. The scenic phrasing introduces a compelling, strange, and a fine utilization of symbols, conveying some ancient accusations, seemingly derived in part from reconnoitering and part the recollection of a vision.

Each well introduced element –Vocalization, then organ, then a hook laden synth-scale, then digi drum and backing vocals– emerges in a sequence that consecutively raises the stakes without being overcome by doubt and retreating before the next tier. The song commits to this scaling, never finding an agreeable plateau and settling in, rather always pushing just a bit further into the approaching empyrean.

Full of precarity and becoming, it is a good and small wonder. The additional 4 tracks available in preview are very much worth a look and promising as well. A valuable document, the album releases April 1st.

TRACK | Baston – Maybe I’m Dead

5/5 golden merles

Baston’s “Maybe I’m Dead” is more great French garage-pop, this time from Rennes. The lyrics are speaking to a need for escape, both from the world through reading/consumption of media and in deviating personally from the tired, daily routines that arbitrarily determine every interaction.

Profuse, enchanting hooks are built within the melodic structures of familiar guitar-bass lines, which are in this case utilized to convey much discontent. While the contents themselves address a desire to escape, the style is genial and possibly celebratory.

The primary concern is structures and norms that have had their value hollowed out and appear to remain only fixtures in our daily lives due to the cultural habit known as tradition. The song is just one more means of attempted escape: unable to escape the world, an additional media is constructed specifically so that this style/aesthetic may also be hollowed out and tunneled through.

And this contradiction is an interesting dichotomy, the taking of pieces/forms from the past in an attempt to build in the present a future worth having. There’s ultimately no escape but accompanying the author on the route itself provides some nice commiseration.

TRACK | Special Friend – High Tide

5/5 golden merles

“High Tide” is built of sterling garage-pop components and moves assuredly from strength-to-strength, no sequence a weakened, broken, or missing link.

Across the soundscape the fuzz’d bass and rhythm guitar are largely reading as one united instrument, beams of the lead guitar’s higher note hooks punctuating the greater haze. The complimentary backing vocals arise harmonious, steadily elevating the chorus and bridge. The drums guide everything toward its assured, abrupt conclusion.

The song is doing well what it intends to do. If you still maintain the capacity to hear things and earnestly assess them, evenly, I don’t think you can fault its form. There is craft, well realize, and in it some sense of purpose.

TRACK | Lower Dens – Truss Me

5/5 golden merles

“Truss me” is an striking track from the recently disbanded Lower Dens; Contemplative and conspiring, a couple minimalistic elements combine to be nonetheless eruptive and properly expansive in their crushing scope.

With an optimal blend of inevitability, desire and consternation, there remains a quiet confidence to the work, blurring the line between promise and threat; or maybe it is made of either in equal measure.

This is another in the series of elevated lyrical nuance within a more traditional pop-structure, raising the stakes of the genre and embracing contradiction. There is much doubt and deference paid to a richness of experience that often seems absent from more absolutist testaments within the medium. There is within it the hope that we can attempt to properly incorporate uncertainty into our model, acknowledge both its potential and liability, but continue to engage with the world.

I also have a kinship with Lower Dens as they are one of the few artists/media figures explicitly paying homage to the wonderful/relevant works of Ernest Becker (“Escape from Evil“).